PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands -- As the anniversary of the first three months of locally elected government in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) approaches over the next week or so, Governor Ric Todd reflected on his experiences since the general election on 9 November 2012 from his perspective both as chair of the Cabinet and from a constitutional standpoint, where he is responsible for ensuring good governance in the TCI.
“I think that the people of the TCI can be satisfied with the progress of democracy and the appointment of a newly elected government,” said Todd. “As a key partner in developing this nation, the British perspective sees many positives in the manner in which government business has been conducted so far. This provides a good platform for future progress. Many of the members of the House of Assembly and the Cabinet are new to their roles, as indeed are a number of senior public servants, but their desire to serve the people of TCI to the best of their abilities is there for all to see.
“From my side, I have regular meetings with the premier and other ministers and Cabinet meetings are conducted professionally and cordially; I thank my fellow Cabinet members, from the premier down, for their support in this.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the public servants of TCIG, led by Deputy Governor Anya Williams and the six permanent secretaries, for their hard work, dedication and commitment to working for and with the newly elected Government. I know that this is as much appreciated by the new ministerial team, as it is by me.
“The UK remains committed to ensuring the success, safety and sustainability of all of its Overseas Territories. That is why arguments that there are somehow two governments operating here are simply confused. The long standing constitutional arrangement agreed by TCI’s own political and civil leaders as far back as 2006, and refreshed in the TCI Constitution Order 2011, clearly lays out the roles and responsibilities, the checks and balances that are required to ensure the ongoing good governance of this country. I think that many of the challenges to the constitution, the law, Integrity Commission rules and codes of conduct are either politically motivated or ill-informed as to their contents. Quite simply, the TCI government and the UK share responsibility for the territory, with each delivering to their constitutional responsibilities.
“The UK remains firmly in the TCI’s corner. When we made the $260 million loan guarantee to TCI’s debtors, after the maladministration of the past, we provided multi-million dollar proof of this commitment. We want a strong two way relationship with the people and institutions of the Islands which is modern, successful and sustainable. But we should not forget TCI’s national debt and where this country stood financially only a few years ago when the government was essentially bankrupt.
“Whilst the national debt is smaller than at the height of the financial crisis, it is still too large for TCI to sustain after the debt guarantee expires in 2016 and has to be brought down by the government, therefore, to something more manageable and less expensive to refinance.”
Todd went on to address some specific issues that have arisen over the first three months of elected government.
Value Added Tax (VAT)
“VAT has been one of the bigger issues in the media recently. My regret is that the advantages of VAT to this country have not been as well communicated as they might have been. This has perhaps meant that the noise of the well orchestrated and very well privately funded anti-VAT campaign has rather dominated the debate.
“The TCI set out upon the path toward VAT some years ago, and it was clearly a feature of the 2011 budget statement too. UK ministers have consistently made clear that they are open to credible and sustainable alternatives to VAT, and have been awaiting proposals on this for some time.
“Their perspective remains that VAT is good for the TCI public finances, but they are willing to work with the elected government to implement a credible alternative. Meanwhile, implementation of VAT has continued as we approach the commencement date of 1 Apr 2013. FCO Minister Mark Simmonds has very constructively suggested that TCI implement VAT now and review it in a year, which also provides a further 12 months in which to develop workable alternatives. The Premier, Hon Dr Rufus Ewing, wrote to Mr Simmonds about VAT and the FSPS on 29 January. Mr Simmonds’ office has confirmed receipt of the letter. Mr Simmonds will reply as soon as he can.”
“I have always said that government should be open, transparent and accountable. But I very much regret that private exchanges of e mails between members of the Cabinet and the content of discussions in Cabinet have been leaked to the media.
“In one particular case, given false reporting, I am obliged to set out the facts. I informed the premier privately and then Cabinet on 24 January that I found unacceptable the nomination of an individual to the board of an important Statutory Body because that individual had made a racist insult and threatened violence against a public servant.
“If anyone thinks that racist abuse and threats of violence against named individuals is an unimportant or petty issue or that those who aspire to elected or public office should make such abuse and threats in public let them say so.
“There is open public debate on TCI – and there should be. But I am confident that all responsible people on TCI, and especially political, social and clergy leaders, will support me when I say that there is no place for personal abuse and insults in that debate. As President Obama noted in his inauguration speech, insults are not debate.”